Agenda item

Update on the Early Help and Children's Social Care Improvement Programme

To consider the update on the Improvement Programme in children’s services.



The Programme Director for the Children’s Improvement Plan presented the update report which included:

  • Progress on the Children’s Improvement Plan
  • Feedback from the monitoring visit of 19 and 20 February 2019
  • Areas for improvement and planned actions
  • Staffing and Vacancy rates
  • Workforce development update
  • Leadership and Management Transformation Programme


Officers were thanked for the breakdown of staff and vacancy rates provided in the report and were asked if they were startled at the figures. Officers responded that there was no surprise at the staffing levels as this was to be expected but there were concerns at the number of staff leaving the organisation. As a result exit interviews had been conducted on a systematic basis to identify underlying reasons for this and the department was responding to feedback and comments received.


A Member further commented that whilst the Sub-Committee was continually concerned about recruitment and retention of staff, it was reassuring to learn that exit interviews had been taking place on a regular basis. It was important that feedback and comments received from those interviews were being translated into practice for existing staff.


It was requested that officers demonstrate at the next meeting, the situation with the workforce and provide details on the churn of staff from 2017 to date in order that members can have a clear picture of what had occurred in the past and what was happening now.


The Executive Director for Children Families and Education informed Members that the Ofsted letter following the last monitoring visit was due to be published later that week. Ofsted was very positive about the changes that has been made though the improvement journey and commented that line of visibility of leadership had improved. It was hoped that the letter would improve staff morale, provide reassurance and a much needed boost that the service was moving in the right direction.


A Member commented that out of all the monitoring visits conducted since the Ofsted judgement, this was the most positive. Officers agreed that although the reports of all five visits that had taken place included positive elements, this visit had the most positive balance. The report from this visit was very good and staff morale would been boosted as a result.


It was noted that the decision to bring in a dedicated brief intervention team to work on child in need cases was good and it was questioned how many people would be in the proposed team and caseloads. Officers stated that this was currently being explored. It was envisaged that caseloads would be on average of 15. Members were further informed that caseloads for the Care Planning team was also being reviewed with the hope of reduction from 15 to 12 due to complexity of cases.


A Member challenged that it appeared that focus had been on quantitative issues and that qualitative issues such as good practice required more focus. Sharing of good practice was key to the service and must be evident in all areas. Officers were asked to provide reassurance that this was being shared across the organisation.


Officers responded that Ofsted had alluded to the good practice in the social work teams and commended the high quality of work seen as well as the work of the early help teams which had received commendations from family court judges. It had been identified that some of the workforce did not feel competent and confident with some practice and this had been responded to through the new learning and development programme of a whole system approach, launched in October 2018. The service was also working with parents and young people on how to improve their experience. It was acknowledged that there were still inconsistencies but with the right infrastructure in place, further improvements would be made.


It was asked what support the service had received amidst the current overhaul of the Councils digital strategy. Officers responded that a workshop was taking place over the next four weeks to look at the system, how it operated, identify difficulties and work with the digital team on resourcing and improvements. The service was also working with the digital team on improving processes for the Case Recording Systems to make navigation easier for social workers and improve delivery of training for new starters. A new recording form had been developed for the Early Help Service which was also working well. The support received to date had been positive and the teams would continue to work together.


Officers and the Cabinet Member were thanked for their response to questions.





Information request by the Sub-Committee

  • Explanation on the progression of vacancies/churn in workforce to be provided by mid-April 2019


The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:

  1. The Sub-Committee was encouraged by Ofsted’s comments on increased pace and improvements that had been made following the recent monitoring visit.
  2. Recruitment and retention was still an area of concern and acknowledged that this would be an area of ongoing development.
  3. It was important that pace increases as we approach an inspection later this year.



Supporting documents: